How to Embody the 3 Characteristics of an Effective Grant Writer

By Jennifer Knickerbocker, Grants Administrator

As any good grant writer knows, grant writing involves far more than just writing proposals. There’s information to gather, decisions to be made, and plenty of deadlines to organize – smack dab in the middle of a busy creative life.

With money on the line, it is important to know what it takes to write a successful grant. Not everyone can hire a professional grant writer for their proposals. Here are the three characteristics you’ll need to make your grant proposal a winning one:

1. Be creative

This may seem like a no-brainer. Creative people need to demonstrate their creativity! I’ve found that writing a good proposal is about more than simply demonstrating how your projects align with the SAGAs mission and priorities. It involves good storytelling. The story of your project is most compelling when you are able to give your reader a very good idea of what you are proposing in about ten to fifteen seconds’ worth of reading.

Not only should you describe what you are doing, but also use your creative storytelling abilities to demonstrate to proposal reviewers how your projects or goals make an impact on the members of your community, from your fellow artists, your constituents, and even the neighborhood where you live or perform. Most importantly, how a grant will impact you.

2. Get organized

From proposal and reporting deadlines to prospective research, grant writers navigate plenty of important details. And since you’re often working on a tight schedule – most likely working on artistic endeavors as well– you’ll need a way to keep yourself organized and on track.

Have you given yourself enough time to receive feedback on the proposal from friends or colleagues before you hit submit? Did you set calendar reminders for following up with key partners?

While talking to those who have already received a SAGA, they used several everyday-tools to help keep themselves on track. A few used their google calendars to set up their grant writing schedule. Others I spoke to said that they had a dedicated grant writing notebook where they kept all of their reminders and to-do lists.

When you give yourself a timeline to complete the sections of the grant application, it helps you prioritize the information you need to gather. Most experienced grant writers start with the budget section, specifically with the expense list. They ask the question, “how much will it take to get my project done?’ and then use the answer to build the narrative description. This step by step approach helps you keep on track.

3. Be inquisitive

Grant writers often have a reporter’s instinct for getting to the bottom of what makes a proposal tick – and how that proposal aligns with a funder’s goals. For SAGA, we are looking for artistic merit, effectiveness, and community impact. 

The majority of SAGA winners asked plenty of questions, and many of them went to workshops and had one-on-one appointments with me, even if they had years of experience. Why? Because they worked to make sure their proposal included details that aligned with SAGAs goals in the best way possible.

Is your project timeline and budget realistic? Does SAGA make sense to pursue given your mission and priorities? Have you described your project or your goals in a way that would make sense to someone who has never heard of you or your work?

These are the questions you should be asking, and probably more. You can find out about our workshops and spend some time with me by visiting our website under Grants and Resources.  http://www.spokanearts.org/resources/

 

Grant writing is difficult for most of us. It takes time and commitment to get through the amount of questions most grant programs need to know about your project. The resilient grant writer takes opportunities to revisit old proposals that didn’t work and make them stronger, incorporating feedback from a prospective funder into the next draft, and are not shaken by the word ‘no.’

 
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Jennifer Knickerbocker is the Grants Administrator for Spokane Arts. She has many years of experience writing and winning grants for arts and culture, and is a long-time member and contributor to the Puget Sound Grantwriters Association as well as Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA). Jennifer teaches grant writing for artists, arts organizations, and heritage groups here in Spokane.